Marshall County Office of Emergency Management Director Thomas Hart is scrambling to find emergency medical service personnel to replace the Fork Ridge EMS service, which recently announced it will discontinue service as of Dec. 31.
"I don't know why they're closing," Hart said Tuesday. "The Fork Ridge EMS has provided valuable service for a long period of time. I will have to meet with other first responders and EMS agencies to fill that coverage area. In the meantime, we have to work with the local 911 center, the county commission and the neighboring first responders to develop a coverage plan for emergency medical services in that area."
Assisting Hart is Betsy Frohnapfel, Marshall County administrator, who is helping set up times to meet with the local volunteer agencies.
"The county is committed to making sure that residents have coverage," said Frohnapfel.
As of Tuesday, Frohnapfel said nothing is official but it appears the service will close.
"We have not been notified directly that they're closing, but they (Fork Ridge EMS) have notified the surrounding volunteer EMS units," Frohnapfel said, adding that there will be several meetings within the next few weeks with volunteers to figure out a coverage plan.
Fork Ridge EMS supervisor Anthony McLaughlin said the closing comes down to finances.
"It's been brewing for a long time," said McLaughlin. "There's no way we can continue."
McLaughlin said the majority of the calls received at Fork Ridge EMS are from patients on Medicare or Medicaid, and that the EMS makes very little money from serving those patients. Because of the lack of profit, McLaughlin said, it has become difficult to cover expenses.
He also blamed the closing on a general lack of volunteers from the area.
While Fork Ridge EMS started out 13 years ago as a strictly nonprofit organization, McLaughlin said nobody volunteers anymore.